ING Direct ’experiment & negotiate’

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ING Direct France started listening to what people were saying about it online in 2009, when vice-president of marketing and communications Sophie Heller joined the business.

Heller says looking at what is being said online about your brand is the first thing marketers should do when thinking about a reorganisation. “Brand is not what you say but what Google and social networks say. You need to make sure that what you say is completely aligned with what you do or what people perceive you do,” she says.

“We started to listen, analyse and understand who was talking, what kind of questions or fears they had. We used this to help update our website for prospects and we installed a feedback process so that employees were aware of everything that was on social networks or [coming up on] Google [searches]. So we created some knowledge that people outside marketing could benefit from,” she says.

To make sure that everyone understands what the brand means, Heller worked not just with people from her own department but also asked for volunteers from IT, operations and finance to come and explore ING Direct’s brand values and perceptions.

Doing this helped ING Direct start what Heller calls “deep work” on the brand, aiming to make sure all messages are consistent, and that the customer is at the centre of the business. She is currently working on how the call centre recruits staff to make sure that what they do is aligned with the brand promise.

Heller wanted to run an acquisition campaign in January, exploiting every possible channel. Most similar campaigns are months in the planning, but Heller had the idea on 22 November 2010 while on a plane and the campaign launched on 3 January 2011. Doing this required people to work differently.

“It was challenging. We had to put PR people together with those working offline, along with others working on promotion, Facebook and internal communications. It takes a little time but it is about changing working habits,” Heller says.

To reach a new audience ING Direct used a fashion coaching initiative, set up in its customers’ café in Paris, where people could get advice on which items to buy in the January sales based on their budgets. It did this based on its own research that four in 10 people frequently regret buying an item in the sales. This meant it could reach a new audience through women’s magazines and other media. It supported this through a Facebook page and game. “This meant we could talk about the sales in a very different way to how banks normally do,” Heller says.

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